January 29, May 30, September 29
Chapter 7: On Humility
We must be on our guard, therefore, against evil desires,
for death lies close by the gate of pleasure.
Hence the Scripture gives this command:
“Go not after your concupiscences” (Eccles. 18:30).
since the eyes of the Lord observe the good and the evil (Prov. 15:3)
and the Lord is always looking down from heaven
on the children of earth
“to see if there be anyone who understands and seeks God” (Ps. 13:2),
and since our deeds are daily,
day and night,
reported to the Lord by the Angels assigned to us,
we must constantly beware, brethren,
as the Prophet says in the Psalm,
lest at any time God see us falling into evil ways
and becoming unprofitable (Ps. 13:3);
and lest, having spared us for the present
because in His kindness He awaits our reformation,
He say to us in the future,
“These things you did, and I held My peace” (Ps. 49:21).
My first reaction is that this passage hardly needs any comments by me. On closer look though…
Once again, Benedict is still writing about the first degree of humility and here he addresses “evil desires.” What are evil desires, I wonder? What do you, Gentle Reader, make of this phrase “evil desires”? Benedict, quoting, says “Go not after your concupiscences.” Which is a funny word we don’t find in day to day conversation. I found an excellent article here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concupiscence if any would like to refer to it.
In brief, this article distinguishes between the Roman Catholic and Protestant views of concupiscence, or sensual but not necessarily only sexual desire. The RC view is that concupiscence might lead to sin whereas the Prot view is that it is already sinful. Benedict’s use indicates to me that he has the RC view in mind. (Although of course, since the split between Eastern and Western parts of the Church are still centuries in the future, it is anachronistic for me to even refer to the RC view of anything.) He could have had the Prot view in mind since that dates back to Augustine who lived and wrote before Benedict was born. But the phrases “go not after” indicates choice and free will to me, which is more in keeping with the RC view.
Although it is hard to talk about concupiscence without sounding like a prig, it would probably do us good to consider what just might be the sort of desires that lead us to sin. Many are obvious. I myself think the danger is in the subtle desires. Maybe also in the way we allow ourselves to be persuaded.I am thinking here of the emphasis upon consumerism and the buy buy buy mentality which leads us to confuse “want” with “need”. I am also thinking here of the justifications we employ to excuse ourselves for allowing this confusion to take place.
Maybe all of us have TVs. If we have TVs, then cable is practically necessary just to have reception. But how many channels do we have to have? Or how many clothes, pairs of shoes, ties, belts, suits, kitchen appliance etc etc do we need? It seems to me that the more things we have the more we are distracted from hearing the Lord. Seems to me that more we give into desires, the more room there is for these desires to become evil, i.e. interfere with our relationship with the Lord.
One good practical test, it seems to me, is what do we do with our money? Do we tithe that 10%? Are we ready to do without “wants” so that we have the 10% to give? Are we willing to chose to donate the money we would have spent on a “want” so that those who don’t have enough might have a chance to get the “needs”?